Who decides who is a Top Doctor?

Matt ColeApril 1, 2018
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Our most comprehensive list ever! Empower your healthcare decisions with our peer-selected list of the Valley’s most respected healers. New in 2018: The field of Wound Care, plus expanded, easily browsable pediatric listings in 23 different specialties, and all-time Top Docs leaders!. Also get up close and personal profiles of doctors in different specialties.

Who picks the doctors?
The doctors do. Every year, PHOENIX magazine obtains the names and addresses of all Valley physicians, including M.D.s (medical doctors), D.O.s (osteopathic doctors), N.D.s/N.M.D.s (naturopathic doctors) and podiatrists (D.P.M.s) from their respective medical boards. We then mail postcards to each physician alerting them to the upcoming online Top Docs vote. The anonymous survey asks the doctors to nominate peers who, in their judgment, are the best in each of 58 specialties, and a variety of pediatric subspecialties. The votes are screened for duplicates and tallied. We then select a vote threshold for each field – typically the top 5 to 10 percent of vote-getters in each specialty.

Does PHOENIX magazine check out all of the doctors on the list?
Yes. Once the list is compiled, PHOENIX magazine’s fact-checkers verify the doctors’ names, addresses, phone numbers and board certifications (physicians must be board-certified in their respective specialties to qualify). Each name is also checked against the state medical board to determine if the doctor has had any censures or disciplinary actions within the last five years, or license suspensions. Those who do are removed. To find out more about individual doctors, visit azmd.gov for M.D.s and D.O.s; podiatry.az.gov for podiatrists and nd.az.gov for naturopaths.

Why not ask patients to rate the best doctors?
PHOENIX magazine uses a peer-based survey because we believe medical professionals are best qualified to judge medical professionals. Patients generally lack the medical expertise to judge a doctor’s qualifications. Should we ever do a ranking based solely on bedside manner, querying patients might be an option.

Do the same doctors make the list every year?
Many doctors do, but there are many new doctors on the list each year, too. Because the established, well-known doctors are exactly that – established and well-known – the list might favor that kind of physician. Given the importance of choosing a doctor, however, PHOENIX magazine views that as a healthy bias.

Was my doctor left off the list because he doesn’t advertise in PHOENIX magazine?
Absolutely not. Like any credible publication, PHOENIX magazine’s editorial content is not dictated by who advertises. Many of our perennial Top Docs have never advertised, while many of our perennial advertisers have never been named Top Docs. Doctors – as well as our sales representatives – have no advance knowledge of who has made the list. Like you, they have to wait until the magazine is published to find out. The only exceptions are the doctors who have been profiled for this feature.

If my doctor’s not on the list, does that mean she is not a good doctor?
No. Although peer review is considered the most reliable methodology, it’s not perfect. To be recognized by a large number of peers, it stands to reason that a doctor would have to have practiced in the Valley for several years. There are many newcomers who are undoubtedly excellent physicians but haven’t yet gained widespread recognition. In addition, there are many doctors in small practices or outlying areas who, likewise, haven’t gained widespread recognition.

My doctor was on the list last year but isn’t listed this year. What does that mean?
It doesn’t necessarily mean anything, and it certainly shouldn’t be viewed as evidence of a drop-off in the doctor’s effectiveness. Getting on the list once doesn’t guarantee that a doctor will be on the list indefinitely – the selection process begins anew each year. Also, in particularly competitive specialties, a doctor may have been only a couple of votes short of becoming a Top Doc.

Each year, you do short feature profiles on a handful of doctors. How do you choose which ones to profile?
Essentially, we “throw a dart at the map.” Because every doctor on the list is considered among the best in the Valley, every doctor is worthy of being profiled. Obviously, it would be impossible to profile all of them, so we randomly select a handful each year. We also try to cover different specialties from year to year.

Why do you include podiatrists and naturopaths on the list?
Although it’s true that podiatrists and naturopaths aren’t M.D.s, we’ve gotten a lot of requests to include them over the years. The bottom line is this: Top Doctors is intended to provide a service to our readers, and including podiatrists and naturopaths is yet another service. In addition, the specialties we list each year are subject to change according to what our readers are seeking.


For more information about our selection process, send us an email at phxmag@citieswestpub.com.